Do you get the feeling of déjà vu when you’re skimming through articles on the hotel industry? That feeling that you’ve seen the same topics discussed ad nauseam? Well you’re probably right – except that certain subjects seem to dominate the landscape to the extent they’re unavoidable, and just occasionally it’s worthwhile to persevere.
One of these topics is Chinese travelers, mainly because there are so many of them, and surveys tell us they spend much more than we think. We are well aware that they’re important – so much so that we give them their very own category, “The Chinese” – but then we struggle to engage with them because the language and cultural barriers somehow seem too hard. We recently found that an absurdly high proportion of luxury hotels in Thailand did not know their own hotel names in Chinese, which first of all leads to confusion for guests, and secondly is alarming in a country where around a quarter of all foreign visitors have Chinese as their first language.
The other subject that draws a lot of attention is that of technology, and the inevitable story of how hoteliers can cut their workload and boost their profits at the mere click of a mouse. We often find ourselves on the skeptical side of the fence when technological solutions are presented, especially when the latest advance is the answer to a question few people are asking – but every now and again, something comes along that genuinely piques our interest.
We reported previously that Portier developed the use of a smartphone which is given to every guest, granting personalized access to all the amenities and services offered by the hotel, as well as serving as an ideal guide to the city when guests are out and about. The feedback gathered through this interface is then used to further enhance the guest experience. It also just so happens that this same technology now provides the key to unlocking the Chinese conundrum – how to understand the growing numbers of high-end Chinese travelers, and fully engage with them to ensure they experience the service quality they deserve. This is something that far too many hotels are struggling to do, and the cost in terms of missed opportunities and lost revenue is significant.
With Chinese guests, language is the major stumbling block to attempts at guest engagement, but hotels simply cannot afford the time it would take to bring their staff up to speed in basic Chinese communication. Fortunately, the Portier device provides a solution by offering up to five different languages in which hotels can deliver their customized content. As Deniz Tekerek, Co-founder of Portier pointed out, “hotels like the fact that they can quickly and easily provide translated material to their guests. Rather than having to prepare, print, and distribute five different versions of the compendium, menus, sales, etc., they can just have the material made and deployed via Portier.”
One potential drawback that springs to mind with technology and translations is that all too often the quality is lacking. We’ve all chuckled at Google Translate at one time or another, and when the translation not only has to be correct but also has to be on point with the brand image, it’s easy to imagine problems. We asked how Portier addresses this issue, and Deniz explained that for marketing and branded material, an assisted translation is used initially, before human editors perform the fine-tuning. Hotels are always consulted at this stage, so editors and managers can collaborate in delivering the right message in the right tone. Hotels are then given templates for further material and full support in ensuring their content is appropriately translated.
However, this is only a small part of a strategy which allows comprehensive guest engagement. The second component which is about to be offered by Portier involves real-time translation via chat. In this scenario, speed is crucial, which inevitably results in a slight loss of accuracy, though nothing that might detract from the critical essence of the message. The use of a comprehensive translation library allows Portier to correctly convey the intent and meaning, although the inherent style of the brand might be lost.
For those customers who select Chinese as one of their Portier languages, the benefits in terms of customer service enhancement are significant. Today’s Chinese consumers are just as motivated by the search for unique travel experiences as we imagine Westerners to be, so the ability to present and promote hotels and destinations in their mother tongue offers the perfect means to deliver the experience they are seeking.Furthermore, as Chinese guests interact with their Portier device, the data they provide can help to build a clearer picture of their travel habits. It is, after all, difficult to meet the needs of a particular demographic if you are limited in your ability to understand what they want, and this is where Portier provides significant advantages to both the hotelier and the guest. The Chinese market is evolving rapidly, and in order to make the most of the opportunity that diverse Chinese visitors provide, it is vital to get to know them better and to deliver the finest hospitality in the language they understand best.